Princess Cruisetour Alaska, Part One

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Cruising the last great frontier is an experience everyone should have on their bucket list, but when you combine it with a land tour to Denali National Park, a trip of lifetime is truly in the making, writes Joanna Hall in this cruise review.

Shelby is a cream-coloured Alaskan husky, and one of the cutest dogs I have ever seen. As she slips her nose affectionately into the palm of my hand, this devoted cat person knew the effort of flying atop Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier at dawn, and being towed around by sled dogs, was going to be memorable.

The flight from Juneau heliport beforehand had been enough to get my heart racing. As our chopper wafted between glacier carved peaks and lush rainforest, to describe the vast scenery as breathtaking sounds somewhat clichéd, but it was. Minutes later we swooped down to the dogsled camp, a bizarre world of endless white and ice, echoing with the robust sound of overexcited barking. Then we were joined by our mushers, and taken to meet the stars of this particular show - the huskies.

After the dogs are hitched up to the sled, we climb aboard and take off. It’s fast and bumpy circumnavigating the camp, stopping occasionally to take turns standing on the back. Before long, sadly, the exhilarating ride is over, leaving us with a bit of time to catch our breath, and pet some of Shelby’s puppies, before climbing aboard the helicopter and returning to town.

We’d travelled to Alaska for the third year straight, seeking a different experience of the forty-ninth state; a seven-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise from Whittier to Vancouver on Coral Princess, preceded by a land excursion venturing deep into Denali National Park. Welcome to the world of the Princess Cruisetour.

This unique combination of travel enables guests to combine visits to Alaska’s top two attractions, Denali National Park and Glacier Bay National Park; a seamless experience without any fuss. The starts were always early, but all we had to do was put our bags outside our hotel room door every night, and turn up to board our bus each morning. The rest was taken care of.

Our top-of-the-range Connoisseur tour lasted five nights, involving hops between three of Princess’s five wilderness lodges, and benefits including the exclusivity of a private motor coach and tour director, and most of our meals. The first stop on our itinerary was Kenai, the smallest Princess lodge tucked away in Cooper Landing, where we hiked to the Kenai River, abundant with spawning salmon, then around one of the 43-acre property’s trails in the heart of bear country.

Next we travelled south to Seward and McKinley Lodge, with activities including a trail ride to view Mt. McKinley peak, and a day cruise from Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park to view the tidewater Aialik Glacier. An idyllic region shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and ocean storms, it’s famous for curious limestone formations and wildlife including puffins and sea lions. 

Our last two nights on land were spent at the impressive 656-room Denali Lodge. Highlights here included an exhilarating flight seeing adventure to Mt. McKinley’s famous snowcapped peak, the centrepiece of Alaska’s Denali National Park, and North America’s tallest mountain at 6,200 metres. We also took a bus tour deep into the park a vast sub-arctic wilderness ablaze with intense autumn colours, and home to more than 650 species of flowering plants, and wildlife including moose, bears, and wolverines.

Before long it was time to journey south again from Denali to Whittier on Princess Rail, to join our ship, the Coral Princess. The first half of our tour had been filled countless highs and many jaw dropping moments; the next half would be on the high seas, heading south to Vancouver and taking in the best of Alaska’s famed Inside Passage.

To read part two of our Alaska Cruisetour, click here.

Princess offers a range of Cruisetours combining land and cruise travel, including a Connoisseur Deluxe Escorted cruisetour, and pre and post-cruise stays in Anchorage and Fairbanks. For more information, call 13 24 88, or visit

Getting there: Qantas operates daily flights from Sydney to Los Angeles, with connections to Anchorage using Alaska Airlines. For more information, call 13 13 13, or visit, and

Joanna Hall